FAADroneZone and the New Airspace Authorization Process

BY Zacc Dukowitz
18 January 2018

The FAA recently launched a new portal called the FAADroneZone, where you can register your drone(s) and manage your airspace authorization and waiver requests.

We’ve gotten a lot of emails lately about how to use the new FAA site to apply for airspace authorization, so we wrote up this post to address all of your questions.

Below are step-by-step instructions, with screenshots included, that walk you through the application process. Feel free to skip ahead to that section, or take a minute to read about what’s new on the DroneZone site when it comes to airspace authorization and waivers.

faadronezone
Image source

Here’s what’s new

One of the great things about the FAADroneZone is that the FAA has finally centralized all things drone-related into one system, and is actually providing information on the status of airspace authorization requests.

In the past, if you were applying for airspace authorization you might submit your request—which you probably worked pretty darn hard on, and which you probably have a lot riding on, too—and then not hear anything for a long, long time. You might wait one month, or two, all the way up to 90 days, and still not get any word about the status of your request.

The new portal fixes this issue.

Now you can log in, see all of the drones you have registered with the FAA, and view the status of any outstanding airspace authorization or waiver requests. That is a big improvement on the old process, where you might not hear anything at all for as long as three months.

Another improvement is that the new process clearly helps the person applying distinguish between applying for authorization and applying for a waiver—when you’re going through the application process, you now have to choose one or the other.

This sounds like a small thing, but it’s actually a big help for ensuring you submit the right kind of request. We’ve heard stories from people who accidentally selected the wrong one and had their applications denied out of hand, simply due to that error.

One small complaint we have is that the FAA is still linking to an outdated PDF with instructions that no longer apply to the new process. But overall, the new site and process definitely represent positive change for the entire process.

What’s the proper way to request controlled airspace authorization from the FAA?

[Note: The following was excerpted from our post How to Request FAA Airspace Authorization for Class B, C, D, and E Controlled Airspace, which was originally published on the Drone Pilot Ground School website.]

According to the FAA, you should fill out their online airspace authorization form over here. After submitting the form the FAA “will strive to review and issue decisions on waiver/authorization requests within 90 days. Processing times will vary based on the complexity of your request.”

Make sure to read the instructions and to fill out the form correctly, or you either won’t hear back from the FAA or will be denied a request and will have to start over.

So how should you fill the form out?

First, if you haven’t already set up an account with FAADroneZone, make sure to go ahead and do that. This is the same account you’d be using for your recreational or commercial sUAS registration.

faa drone zone

Then, once you’re logged in, click through to your Part 107 Dashboard, navigate to the Part 107 Waivers & Authorizations section, and click the button that says, Create Part 107 Waiver/Authorization.

part 107 dashboard

Make sure to select the correct bullet point indicating you’d like to start an Airspace Authorization application.

airspace authorization request button

You’ll notice that there are four parts to the application.

faadronezone application steps

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

faadronezone responsible party

Operation Title:

You need a primary title for your intended operation. My recommendation is to be clear and specific, so something like:

Ongoing Residential Roof Inspections in BNA Class C Airspace

Responsible Party:

This will usually just be you, but it doesn’t have to be. The Responsible Party is not required to hold a Remote Pilot Certificate and can be the representative of an organization.

The Responsible Party you put down is accountable for a list of responsibilities, which include maintaining records demonstrating compliance with FAA requirements; being accessible by the ATC; and maintaining a list of pilots and make / model of all aircraft involved in the operation. See the full list on pages 1 and 2 of this FAA instructions document.

OPERATION PARAMETERS

faadronezone operation parameters

This next section of the application is called Operation Parameters and has a bunch of information you’ll need to fill out.

Pay attention to all the form field instructions, like Dates cannot be in the past or exceed 24 months from today’s date.

When it comes to your Proposed Location of Operation, the more specific you can be here, the better. Provide city, state, and specific identifying characteristics, including landmarks.

Here is an example:

Project center point is intersection of ______________. Nearest street address is ______________. We intend to fly over the ______________ to capture photos and video for construction progress monitoring of the road/rail separation project. Flight will focus on bridge construction near this project center point as well as the railroad tracks affected by this project.

Use the Latitude and Longitude fields to identify the center point of your mission. The center point does not necessarily have to be where you are starting your mission, since factors such as weather and terrain may make starting in the center of your proposed area of operation impractical.

If you need help converting latitude and longitude decimal measurements for a particular location to the degrees, minutes, and seconds format needed in this application, you can use a conversion tool like https://www.latlong.net/lat-long-dms.html.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: A little known—but crucial!—best practice is to use the center of the airport as the GPS location and to request Blanket Area / Wide Area authorization for that airport’s entire controlled airspace. This is the clearest way to request the most amount of airspace around an airport possible.

faadronezone latitude longitude

Description of Your Proposed Operation, it’s important to note that the instructions for this open form field ask not just for a description, but also for “Purpose of operation and method by which the proposed operation can be safely conducted.”

Although FAA instructions for filling out the form state that this justification is only required for airspace waivers, and not airspace authorization, your best bet is to provide a clear safety justification for an airspace authorization request as well.

Here is the answer one of our students used for a successful application:

I intend to obtain site photographs/video of the construction progression at this location which was designed by COMPANY. The sUAS described within will be configured to limit vertical AGL altitude to 200ft and horizontal travel will remain within VLOS. We intend to utilize multiple launch points at this location to ensure the sUAS remains within VLOS. Aside from requesting to fly within this Class C airspace, we will comply with all other Part 107 regulations. In addition to complying with part 107, we intend to have a 2 man crew comprised of both a PIC & a designated VO to alert the PIC of any potential aircraft entering the vicinity. ATC can reach either of us if needed via our cell number provided in this request. PIC will also post a NOTAM via www.1800wxbrief.com, a minimum of 24-hour advance notice of this flight to inform pilots and ATC of specifics of the flight which will appear on sectional VFRs for any interested parties. We feel this request will benefit our project by allowing us the freedom to operate safely and as needed in this Class C airspace.

And here’s how another student adapted their paperwork for their specific request of Class D airspace authorization.

Proposed area of operations:

We request that we are able to fly in the Class D airspace around Sioux Gateway Airport (SUX), Sioux City, Iowa.

The airport coordinates are:

42-24-09.4000N / 096-23-03.7000W
42-24.156667N / 096-23.061667W
42.4026111 / -96.3843611
(estimated)

We intend to capture photos and video for clients who have property within the Class D airspace and have requested that we provide photos and videos of their property for various purposes such as marketing, construction and/or inspection. We agree that no flights will take place within 1 mile of the airport coordinates.

Description of your proposed operation:

We intend to obtain site photographs/video of various locations as requested by our clients during the upcoming summer months where our local weather permits the safe operation of our sUAS. The sUAS described within will be configured to limit vertical AGL altitude to 200ft and horizontal travel will remain within VLOS. We will ensure the sUAS remains within VLOS. Aside from requesting to fly within this Class D airspace, we will comply with all other Part 107 regulations. In addition to complying with part 107, we intend to have a 2 person crew comprised of both a PIC & a designated VO to alert the PIC of any potential aircraft entering the vicinity. We will give way to all aircraft and will be especially aware of our distance from runway approaches.  ATC can reach us if needed via our cell number provided in this request.  PIC will also provide a minimum of 24-hour advance notice of this flight to ATC of specifics of the flight: location, anticipated take-off time, anticipated end of operation, and current cell phone numbers of PIC and VO.  PIC will also provide notice at the actual time of launch and landing of each flight to ATC if they so desire. We feel this request will benefit our project by allowing us the freedom to operate safely and as needed in this Class D airspace.  The majority of the flights we anticipate will fall near the outer limits of the airspace.

After filling out this section of the application, you’ll be asked to review and then to submit your information to the FAA.

faadronezone airspace application confirmation

Once you submit your application, you’ll be given a reference number, and you’re able to check the status of your application at anytime by logging back into your Part 107 Dashboard and selecting the Manage Part 107 Waivers / Authorizations button.

faadronezone airspace authorization application status

Still have questions? Email us at support[at]uavcoach.com.

Zacc Dukowitz

Director of Marketing

Zacc Dukowitz is the Director of Marketing for UAV Coach. A writer with professional experience in education technology and digital marketing, Zacc is passionate about reporting on the drone industry at a time when UAVs can help us live better lives. Zacc also holds the rank of nidan in Aikido, a Japanese martial art, and is a widely published fiction writer. Zacc has an MFA from the University of Florida and a BA from St. John's College. Follow @zaccdukowitz or check out zaccdukowitz.com to read his work.

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